Sucker juice of 1953

The Queen, 1953.
“One would like to get a round in – who’s hav­ing what? And four bags of scratch­ings, two dry-roast­ed and a cou­ple of pick­led eggs?”

On 25 Novem­ber 1952, the fol­low­ing sto­ry ran in the Guardian:

There is to be a spe­cial strong beer for the Coro­na­tion, it was announced by Mr F.J. Bear­man, chair­man of the pan­el of beer judges at the Brew­ery and Allied Traders Exhi­bi­tion… ‘Almost every brew­ery in the coun­try is brew­ing a Coro­na­tion beer. Its grav­i­ty will be about .60 com­pared with .33 for the aver­age beer to-day,’ he said… The Coro­na­tion beer will be bot­tled and… cost about 2s 6d a nip bot­tle.

There were out­raged respons­es to this news from both puri­tans – ‘The brew­ers are assum­ing that the British peo­ple will need dou­ble-strength beer… to cel­e­brate the Queen’s solemn act of ded­i­ca­tion to the ser­vice of God’ – and pre­sum­ably from drinkers, as the brew­ers were accused of prof­i­teer­ing from the Coro­na­tion.

The Brew­ers’ Soci­ety stat­ed yes­ter­day: ‘Any sug­ges­tion that brew­ery com­pa­nies will be mak­ing big prof­its from Coro­na­tion ales is com­plete­ly unwar­rant­ed. These spe­cial brews are uneco­nom­ic to pro­duce. They involve changes in the brew­ery rou­tine, spe­cial labels, and some­times spe­cial bot­tles… The demand for them is very dif­fi­cult to pre­dict. The pur­pose in brew­ing them is to give peo­ple some­thing spe­cial in which to drink the Queen’s health.’ (Guardian, 4 Decem­ber 1952.)

Sev­er­al months lat­er, the brew­ers were ful­ly on the back foot, and hav­ing to explain why they wouldn’t be giv­ing away free beer in their pubs on Coro­na­tion Day: ‘What brew­ers have to pay in tax alone out of sums for licensed house improve­ment would pay for sev­en or eight pints of free beer for every adult in the coun­try’. The same Brew­ers’ Soci­ety spokesman also point­ed out how dif­fi­cult a ‘free beer’ scheme would be to admin­is­ter: some drinkers might be tempt­ed to claim six free pints in one pub, then move on to anoth­er and start afresh, and then anoth­er… (Guardian, 21 May 1953.)

Today, brew­ers are still asked to defend the prices of their lim­it­ed edi­tion, spe­cial­ly pack­aged, ‘event’ beers, and they still rely on sim­i­lar sound­ing argu­ments.

4 thoughts on “Sucker juice of 1953”

  1. … and they still rely on sim­i­lar sound­ing argu­ments.” That’s gen­er­al­ly because these rea­sons do have a basis in truth. I’ll give an exam­ple. We cur­rent­ly pay £0.06p a label for our reg­u­lar beers. For Rhetoric we pay about £0.30p a label. We buy 30,000 labels at a time for our nor­mal beers. We order 2,000 a time for a one off.

    That extra £0.24p has to come from some­where.

    Lim­it­ed edi­tion beers are gen­er­al­ly stronger.

    The duty pay­ment on a bot­tle of Con­tin­u­um is £0.13p on Rhetoric it’s about £0.50p

    We’ve already got to £0.75p per bot­tle extra cost to man­u­fac­ture with­out all the very gen­uine cost impli­ca­tions of the length of time in tank, inter­rup­tion to pro­duc­tion etc, etc, etc. You also have to remem­ber that busi­ness loos­es mon­ey if ALL it does is pass on cost of man­u­fac­ture. There sim­ply has to be an incen­tive to do some­thing, else there is no point being in busi­ness. I guess that’s what all you none busi­ness peo­ple see as dirty prof­it, and what we busi­ness peo­ple see as the rea­son for exist­ing at all.

    But, at the end of the day, the right price for beer is a bal­ance between what the drinker is pre­pared to pay and the price the brew­er is pre­pared to sell it for. I will only do lim­it­ed edi­tion beers if they make me mon­ey.

    I’ll only make high strength beers if they make me mon­ey. I’ll only take a risk and do some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent if I think it might make me mon­ey.

    And if the drinker doesn’t want to pay it, that’s my prob­lem.

    1. Dave – hel­lo! We were just think­ing about you as we’ve got a response to your “What is beer inno­va­tion?” post due today.

      There are two ways for brew­ers like your­self to han­dle crit­i­cism around price/profiteering: one is open­ness, which is the route you seem to pre­fer; and the oth­er is to bat it away and car­ry on regard­less. As observers and con­sumers, we pre­fer the for­mer, but the the sec­ond (more arro­gant?) approach can be quite effec­tive, too.

  2. And if the drinker doesn’t want to pay it, that’s my prob­lem.”

    Most refresh­ing state­ment from a brew­er on spe­cial releas­es ever.

  3. You have to put beer strength into con­text. I’m too lazy to look up the exact date just now, but the aver­age grav­i­ty of beer had been set by the gov­ern­ment dur­ing the war and for sev­er­al years after. The coro­na­tion in 1952 was an occa­sion when there was the pos­si­bil­i­ty and the excuse to brew a strong beer again after years of bare­ly-alco­holic stuff. It’s been seen as a turn­ing point by some. Mar­tyn, I think. I’d need more data to say any­thing so def­i­nite.

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